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The Danger of Discipline without Direction

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There is no intrinsic value to finishing what you started.

“But…but…you didn’t finish” is not an argument that you actually *should* finish.

If you’re in the middle of doing something that’s inconsistent with your preferences and principles, then you shouldn’t hold yourself hostage to your current trajectory just because you’re afraid of being called a “quitter.”

Some of our best moments as a species are when we convince one another to *not* finish something we started precisely because it’s unhealthy or unhelpful.

The value of finishing a task is relative to what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If finishing a task makes you a better human being and you genuinely believe that it’s the right choice for you, then you should finish what you started even it’s uncomfortable. If sticking with a task robs you of your time, your money, your health, your joy, or anything else that really matters to you, however, then it’s self-defeating to keep going merely for the sake of proving to others that you’re a disciplined person.

To persist in a task that is no longer fruitful nor fulfilling in the name of “being a finisher” is to make yourself a victim of the sunk cost fallacy.

Stopping what you started can sometimes be a greater expression of discipline than finishing what you started.

When you find yourself dragging your feet down a path that isn’t serving your highest priorities, it takes a lot of strength to rethink your assumptions and redirect your actions.

The question to ask is not “Am I willing to finish what I started?” The question to ask is “Am I willing to be faithful to my ever-evolving understanding of what matters most to me? And sometimes that means finishing. And sometimes that means letting go of the things that are no longer worthy of you.

I place quitting and finishing on equal epistemic ground. If rational justification is required for quitting, then it’s also required for finishing.

“Finish what you started” is not some sort of axiom that should be greeted with less scrutiny than “Quit if you don’t want to finish.”

Both can be wrong. Both require critical thinking.

“Does that mean I should stop eating healthy merely because I don’t feel like it anymore?”

Of course not. You don’t need to be a flake in order to be honest with yourself and others about the things aren’t working for you. Don’t confuse pushing yourself out of your comfort zone with forcing yourself to deny your values.

Determination and discipline are good, but nothing is more dangerous than determination and discipline without discernment and direction.

“Be True to Yourself…As Long as You Go to College”

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When college opt-outs say things like “I don’t want to go to college. Instead, I’m going to try starting a business or I’m going to pursue this creative venture I love”, everyone loves to whip out income statistics about having a degree. We get so worried about how much money people are going to make when they decide that school isn’t right for them. That’s cool. I think it’s a good exercise to worry about how much money people are going to make. So let’s go with that logic for a minute.

Here’s my question for the people who love to bring up money: should we also whip out those same income statistics when people go to college to major in things like music, drama, art, education, social work, theology, ministry, philosophy, and family studies? Shouldn’t we be encouraging these people to become anesthesiologists and nuclear engineers? At least they should go into something like accounting, right? If I remember correctly, don’t we love to complain about how underpaid school teachers are? Shouldn’t we be challenging those people and telling them to major in computer science or engineering instead? By the way, did you know that some of the worst paying majors are the ones that involve feeding people and caring for them?

It’s funny how we actually praise people for blatantly rejecting the opportunity to maximize their income potential simply because they want to “make a difference” or “follow their heart” or “work in a field that seems like the right fit for their personality.”

I know, I know. We should support people who major in those things because those subjects are meaningful and important. Yes, we should support them even if they knowingly leave a lot of money on the table to pursue those fields. I get it now. So it’s not really about the income statistics. It’s about doing work that’s meaningful, important, and authentic…as long as you go to college.

Dogma is a funny thing.

The Cost (and Rewards) of Generosity

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Serving others is costly.

A life of service forces you to pay the price of abandoning your scarcity mindset and all the sympathy that comes with it. When you walk around with an “it’s just little ole me” attitude or when you carry yourself as someone who doesn’t have enough to share, no one expects anything of you and they extend pity in your direction.

When you decide to step up and share your gifts with others, however, it gives you the appearance of abundance. When you behave generously, people see you as someone who actually has something to give. It can be really hard to give up comments like “Wow, you really have it rough” in exchange for comments like “Wow, you really have a lot going for you.”

This might sound like the beginnings of an argument for not being generous. It’s not. Because the best part about being generous is how it changes the way you see yourself.

Once you get into the rhythm and groove of looking for opportunities to create value, you start to realize that you always have more to give than what meets the eye. By acting generously, you begin to experience life in a more generous way. It produces a fundamental shift in your mindset that leads to greater opportunities.

If you truly want to experience the universe as a place brimming with possibilities, go solve some problems for people.

Even if you see yourself as the one who has the most problems, the best way out is to push yourself to help someone else with their problems. Instead of competing for the title of “who has a more difficult life”, strive for the greater prize of making life a little less difficult for someone else.

It’s not easy, but it’s the best way to make life easier.

Generosity is a Permissionless Enterprise

You don’t need to have a credential in order to meet a human need.

“Love thy neighbor as thyself” was not prefaced with “if you have the proper certification.”

You don’t have to go through an audition, an application process, or an adjudication committee to find problems that need solutions.

Generosity is a permissionless enterprise.

You may not have a degree, but you always have something to offer.

Is College the Answer for Black People? | Reflections on College & Race

No, I do not believe that college is a magic bullet for black people. Is education the answer? Yes, it always is. But education does not equal school and fewer things are more self-stultifying than the belief that it does.

I recently had a conversation with an Uber driver, an older black man, who went on and on for the first 10 minutes of our ride complaining about the behavior of young black men. It was the usual “they need to pull up their pants and stop talking ghetto” type stuff that makes my eyes glaze over.

So I asked him what he thought the solution was and he said “college.” “If our people are ever going to get it together,’ he said, “it starts with education.” So I said “Truer words have never been spoken, but what does education have to do with the notion that college is the solution for our people?” A conversation ensued where I challenged one of the most common talking points that gets lazily presented as gospel truth in discussions about what’s best for black people: “school = education.”

I not only regard this as a logically flawed idea, but I regard it as a dangerous idea that stifles the entrepreneurial spirit that I observe in nearly every young black person I meet. Black people are among the most creative people on the planet and I do not believe that traditional schooling is the best place to harness that creativity. I don’t believe that college is the answer any more than I believe that compulsory schooling is the answer.

To hear some of my initial thoughts on this topic, listen to this below clip from the latest episode of Office Hours with Isaac M. Morehouse and myself.

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